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Does your morning walk with your dog feel more like a tug-of-war with a leash than a bonding exercise with your furry friend? You’re running, tugging, and struggling to keep up with your energetic pup – all while reminding yourself that you should correct the leash pulling and fix the behavior. But there’s hope. You don’t need special skills to stop your pup from dragging you down the street; you just need a little patience and some pro tips. This blog covers ways to help prevent leash pulling so you and your dog can enjoy stress-free walks together.
It can be frustrating when your pooch pulls on a leash, but it's important to understand why this behavior is occurring before trying to fix the situation. Dogs pull on leash for various reasons, including excitement, anxiety, boredom, or even stress. Take time to observe your pet’s behavior and think about what may be going on in their doggy brain. It may help you determine why they may be lunging at that squirrel and allow you to find a solution that works for both of you.
Choosing the right equipment for your walks with your dog can make a massive difference in your experience. There are plenty of practical (and stylish) collars, leashes, and harnesses on the market – check out K9 & Company for our top picks.
When selecting your gear for walking, consider your pup’s temperament, size, and coat/fur type; a leather collar might look handsome, but a harness might be better if your dog is prone to wiggling out of a collar. If your dog has an incredibly fluffy coat, you might need to try a few sizes before you find one that fits appropriately. Pet store staff may be able to suggest well-fitting options, just make sure that whatever you pick fits comfortably and securely. Additionally, select a sturdy, fixed-length leash. We recommend starting with a six-foot leash to start. Selecting the right gear can help to turn a stressful situation into one of joy and contentment.
A great option to help manage leash pulling is using positive reinforcement training. This technique teaches your dog to walk nicely on the leash and can even help them enjoy being around people and other animals. Positive reinforcement when walking includes promptly praising and rewarding your pup when exhibiting polite leash behavior. Your dog will quickly learn which behaviors you want to see from them and begin associating walking on the leash with rewards. This can be especially helpful if your dog is struggling with leash reactivity. Click here for more tips on walking leash-reactive dogs.
Generally, “good” walking behavior includes maintaining a stride that results in a loose leash, i.e., walking without pulling the leash taut. The word “heel” is often associated with proper leash behavior. Over time, this positive reinforcement strategy can make it easier for both of you next time you head out for a walk. So get out there and show that special pup how proud you are!
Incorporating playtime into longer walks can help keep your dog’s attention focused, making the entire process more enjoyable and potentially reducing pulling. Try introducing an interactive toy, such as a ball or squeaky toy, at regular intervals to help keep their focus throughout the walk. This method can also be helpful for older dogs or those with joint pain or inflammation. Breaking up a long walk with short play (or rest) sessions gives them time to take a break and regain energy for the next leg of their journey!
While not intended as a long-term solution, another option to help prevent leash pulling is by bringing a treat or toy along with you on walks to distract your pup from pulling and tugging on the leash. When they begin to pull, use the item to regain your dog’s attention. Once they start exhibiting the behavior you want (not pulling), reward them with their preferred positive reinforcement (e.g., treats or praise).
If your dog doesn’t pay attention to you after a few commands, switch the distraction for something new! Once your pup stops responding to these distractions, it will most likely be time for more active training techniques, as you may be struggling with “selective obedience.” But until then, distraction methods are a great way to get your pup on their way to better leash control and become a good walking companion!
Taking the same route and going to the same parks can make walks with your pup monotonous and lead to undesirable walking behavior, like pulling. Spice up your routine and make walks more enjoyable by veering off the beaten path. Explore new parks, try different streets, or, on busy days, investigate the side streets to add variety to your walks. Creative changes help keep you and your pup engaged and excited when you head out for a walk!
Walking your pup shouldn't be a struggle! With patience and the proper steps, leash pulling can be prevented. Understanding why dogs pull is the first step in finding out how to stop it. Once you figure out the root cause, utilizing different gear and pairing positive reinforcement with playtime are also great ways to keep your pup's attention during walks. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Switching up your routine and going on enjoyable strolls through new routes or parks will help keep them engaged and serve as a bonding experience for you and your four-legged family member.
For all of your dog walking needs, go to K9 & Company’s website today.